Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pope to Visit Summit on Food Security

Director-General of UN Organization Addresses Synod

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will visit the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization for the opening day of its World Summit on Food Security.

The Pope will visit the FAO on Nov. 15, the Vatican announced today. The World Summit on Food Security will be held immediately prior to the FAO general conference, Nov. 18-23.

The Vatican announcement comes a day after Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. organization, addressed the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod is under way at the Vatican through Oct. 25.

Work to be done

Diouf's address to the synod illustrated the bleak situation of the African continent. He offered an extensive look at the problems afflicting Africa as reflected in certain key statistics.

"In Africa despite the important progress achieved by many countries, the state of food insecurity is very worrisome," he said. "The continent today counts 271 million undernourished persons, that is 24% of the population, which represents an increase of 12% in relation to the year before. Also, among the 30 countries of the world in a state of food crisis needing urgent help currently, 20 are in Africa."

The continent needs to "modernize its means and its infrastructure" for agricultural production, the U.N. director noted, explaining that agriculture represents 11% of exports, 17% of the GNP on the continent, and above all, 57% of employment.

Nevertheless, statistics he offered point to the poor state of development: Only 16 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare of arable land are made use of, versus 194 kilograms in Asia and 152 kilograms in South America. This count is yet weaker in Sub-Saharan Africa with only five kilograms per hectare.


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